The Maison Dieu, a 16th century house incorporating part of a medieval hospital
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Swale (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TR 00355 60853
Reasons for Designation
The Maison Dieu along with the building immediately to the east, which is inhabited and not included in the scheduling, incorporates remains that are all that is thought to survive of a 13th century hospital. Excavation has revealed that the hospital was originally extensive, most of the complex having been situated north of Watling Street. Following the dissolution of the hospital in 1516, the Maison Dieu was adapted as a private house but has undergone few alterations since. Medieval hospitals were groups of buildings, established largely between the Anglo-Saxon period and the 16th century, designed to provide spiritual and medical care. Some, like this example, enjoyed royal patronage. Documentary sources indicate that by the mid-16th century there were around 800 hospitals in England. A further 300 are also thought to have existed but had fallen out of use by this date. Few medieval hospitals retain upstanding remains and very few have been examined by excavation. Although the Maison Dieu is peripheral to the main hospital complex, it does form an integral part of an example which is well- documented, both from archaeological and historical sources. The house is also a well-preserved example of 16th century architecture, with evidence surviving for its various uses, as a chaplin's house, a public house and a shop.
The monument includes a 16th century house incorporating part of the Maison
Dieu, which is all that remains upstanding of the 13th century hospital of the
Blessed Virgin Mary. The house is situated to the south of Faversham on
Watling Street, which was the main route between Dover and London, via
Canterbury, in the medieval period. The hospital is known from excavation to
have been more extensive than the visible remains suggest, covering an area
north and south of the road. The other visible part of the Maison Dieu is
incorporated into an inhabited building immediately to the east of the
The building included in the monument is Listed Grade II* and includes 13th
century walls associated with the medieval hospital, along with examples of
16th century architecture and some early 18th century alterations. The 13th
century stonework is thought to be part of an undercroft intended to support a
hall or chamber above. The walls have narrow, rectangular windows and a door
on to the street, the sill of which is c.0.5m below present ground level. The
stonework of the walls is of a rougher rubble than that of the other
inhabitated portion of the Maison Dieu. The windows have a narrower splay and
are made of inferior ragstone. The door arch has long voussoirs and a coarse
quarter-round moulding with a chamfered outer order. These features have been
taken to suggest a construction date for the building of c.1300 or a little
later, when the hospital could no longer afford first class masonry. The
chamber above the medieval remains is post-1516 and is of one build, although
a number of alterations have been made over time. The 16th century house
consisted of a ground-floor hall, to the west of the old undercroft. Upstairs
would have been the parlour, solar and the Great Chamber.
The Maison Dieu of Ospringe is claimed to have been founded by Henry III in
1234; however, it is more likely that it was founded by Hubert de Burgh
c.1230, and that it was one of the properties handed over to the king when de
Burgh fell from grace in 1234. The hospital's dominant purpose was to care for
the sick and aged; a second purpose was the shelter of pilgrims on their way
to and from Canterbury to visit the shrine of St Thomas Beckett. Two thirds of
all the hospitals in Kent are located along Watling Street.
The hospital was staffed by a small number of regular clerics along with
Brethren of the Holy Cross. The total included a master or warden, three
professed brethren, two secular chantry priests who prayed for the souls of
the founder and benefactors of the hospital, and various `sisters' who filled
the role of nurses, rather than being almswomen.
Henry III added another function to the hospital by having a royal chamber
built (the Camera Regis), so that he and his entourage could stay there
whenever they travelled to or from the coast. It appears that Henry made
little use of this facility, unlike his son Edward I, who used it often, a
factor which may have placed an added strain on the finances of the
institution. A chapel was established at the Maison Dieu soon after 1235, when
an agreement was made with the abbot of St Augustine's Abbey at Canterbury.
Following this, in 1245, the brethren were also granted the right of burial
within the hospital precincts.
For the first 20 years after its foundation, endowments and gifts came quickly
and the hospital flourished, but during the reign of Edward I it stagnated and
became perpetually insolvent. The Maison Dieu struggled on until 1516 when the
Bishop of Rochester obtained its dissolution, and added its revenues to those
of St John's College, Cambridge. The Maison Dieu thus ceased to function as a
hospital, although the obligation to pray for the souls of its founder and
benefactor remained, and thus a series of chantry priests was appointed. Of
the hospital buildings, all but the chapel and the chaplain's house were
leased out to a local businessman. In 1547, under the reformation of Edward
VI, the chantry lost its religious status and the remaining buildings were
also leased out. Since the 16th century, the building has been used as a
house, a public house and a shop; it was placed in State care in 1947 and is
used to house a museum for the archaeology and history of the Faversham area.
The medieval walls in Nos 15 and 17 Ospringe Street are the only upstanding
remains of the Maison Dieu. The main complex of buildings relating to the
hospital, including the Common Hall, the chapel and the Camera Regis, was
located on the north side of Ospringe Street, in an area now redeveloped for
private housing. Much of the hospital site was excavated in 1977 prior to
development when a partial plan of the precinct was recovered, and many of the
hospital buildings were identified. The main buildings were shown to have been
erected soon after the hospital's foundation, the `infirmaries' by c.1240 and
the chapel by c.1250. The earliest pottery from the site dated from the mid-
13th century and there were no signs of earlier buildings.
Both the upstanding structure of No 17 Ospringe Street (The Maison Dieu)
and the ground beneath the house are included in the scheduling. All modern
fittings within the structure are excluded, including the staircase, the
fittings for the electricity and heating system, the English Heritage sign on
the outside wall of the building, the display cabinets in the museum, modern
red brick infilling in the fireplaces and modern brick rebuilding.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Rigold, S E, Maison Dieu, Ospringe, (1985), 3-14
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing